Effect of primary-care spirometry on the diagnosis and management of COPD

Eur Respir J. 2006 Nov;28(5):945-52 Walker PP, Mitchell P, Diamantea F, Warburton CJ, Davies L. Clinical Science Centre, University Hospital Aintree, Lower Lane, Liverpool, L9 7AL, UK.

Primary-care spirometry has been promoted as a method of facilitating accurate diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The present study examined whether improving rates of diagnosis lead to improvements in pharmacological and nonpharmacological management.

From 1999 to 2003, the current authors provided an open-access spirometry and reversibility service to a local primary-care area, to which 1,508 subjects were referred. A total of 797 (53%) had pre-bronchodilator airflow obstruction (AFO). Of the subjects who underwent reversibility testing, 19.3% were no longer obstructed post-bronchodilator. The results and records of a subgroup of 235 subjects with post-bronchodilator AFO were examined. Of the 235 subjects, 130 received a new diagnosis, most commonly COPD. The patients with COPD were significantly undertreated before spirometry and testing led to a significant increase in the use of anticholinergics (37 versus 18%), long-acting beta-agonists (25 versus 8%) and inhaled steroids (71 versus 52%). More than three quarters of smokers received smoking cessation advice but very few were referred for pulmonary rehabilitation.

In conclusion, primary-care spirometry not only increases rates of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease diagnosis, but it also leads to improvements in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease treatment. The use of bronchodilator reversibility testing in this setting may be important to avoid misdiagnosis




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